Analysis of adoption of conservation agriculture practices in southern Africa: mixed-methods approach
In southern Africa, conservation agriculture (CA) has been promoted to address low agricultural productivity, food insecurity, and land degradation. However, despite significant experimental evidence on the agronomic and economic benefits of CA and large scale investments by the donor community and national governments, adoption rates among smallholders remain below expectation. The main objective of this research project was thus to investigate why previous efforts and investments to scale CA technologies and practices in southern Africa have not led to widespread adoption. The paper applies a multivariate probit model and other methods to survey data from 4,373 households and 278 focus groups to identify the drivers and barriers of CA adoption in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The results show that declining soil fertility is a major constraint to maize production in Zambia and Malawi, and drought/heat is more pronounced in Zimbabwe. We also find gaps between (a) awareness and adoption, (b) training and adoption, and (c) demonstration and adoption rates of CA practices in all three countries. The gaps are much bigger between awareness and adoption and much smaller between hosting demonstration and adoption, suggesting that much of the awareness of CA practices has not translated to greater adoption. Training and demonstrations are better conduits to enhance adoption than mere awareness creation. Therefore, demonstrating the applications and benefits of CA practices is critical for promoting CA practices in all countries. Besides, greater adoption of CA practices requires enhancing farmers’ access to inputs, addressing drudgery associated with CA implementation, enhancing farmers’ technical know-how, and enacting and enforcing community bylaws regarding livestock grazing and wildfires. The paper concludes by discussing the implications for policy and investments in CA promotion.